Sonne [Sun] (2022)

Sonne
Director: Kurdwin Ayub
Writer: Kurdwin Ayub
Cast: Melina Benli, Law Wallner, Maya Wopienka, Thomas Momcinovic, Marlene Hauser, Lia Wilfing, Margarete Tiesel
Seen on: 13.9.2022

Plot:
Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) are best friends. On a bored afternoon, they shoot a music video to Losing My Religion using the hijabs of Yesmin’s mother. The video goes a bit viral, and the three girls rise to celebrity in the local muslim community, asked to perform at various events. But Yesmin – the only one of them who actually wears a hijab – grows increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and her friends’ behavior.

Sonne is Ayub’s fictional debut and proves her great talent. The film is creative and funny, but also serious and insightful about the situation of diasporic Kurds, especially young women. I was really impressed by it.

The film poster showing Yesmin (Melina Benli), Bella (Law Wallner) and Nati (Maya Wopienka) singing.

Sonne taps right into the ambivalence of what it means to be the “odd one out”. Yesmin’s (very legitimate) struggles with her Kurdic identity – something that I’d say is a completely normal part of finding yourself, finding out who you are – becomes warped with the participation of her non-Kurdic friends. Their interest in her culture quickly turns into fetishization that ultimately leads them to turn away from Yesmin when she isn’t willing to play along in the way they imagine. With this set-up Ayub captures the difficulites, complexities and the power dynamic of sharing your marginalized community with people from the majority.

It’s not an easy topic, but Ayub keeps a light touch for most of the film, always interspersing it with humor and with social media content that the girls or their friends post. Especially the latter feels completely authentic to the youth culture of today (says I, a definitely-not-youth-anymore), and fits suprisingly well into the film. With social media content becoming more and more commonly included in movies, it often feels “Hollywoodized”. Not so here.

Yesmin (Melina Benli) looking critically at herself in the mirror.

The central three – all still unknown and very young actors – prove their talents just as much as Ayub. Especially Benli gives an astonishing performance, full of sensitivity. You always know exactly where Yesmin is emotionally and Benli makes sure that you feel along with her at all times.

I’m not sure that the film needed the big twist at the end where things seem to go from a more slice of life setting to a more exaggerated story. I think I would have preferred it if the stakes had remained a little smaller and the ending maybe a little less ambiguous. But then again, the ambiguity fits the rest of the film and its story very well, so I can’t really criticize it, even if I would have liked it differently. It’s a good exercise anyway to sit with that ambiguity. And it’s definitely a good thing to see the film.

Yesmin (Melina Benli) and Bella (Law Wallner) in party mode, drinking on the street.

Summarizing: very good.

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